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What Kind of Therapist Do I Need For Anxiety?

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Deciding on the right therapist for anxiety can be a complex and confusing process, as there are many different types of therapists and approaches to treating anxiety. Most approaches will follow a pattern designed to help individuals better understand, manage, and reduce their anxiety symptoms. Here is a sample outline of such an approach:

  • Assessment: The therapy process often begins with an initial assessment, where the therapist gathers information about your symptoms, history, and current life circumstances. This assessment helps the therapist understand the nature and severity of your anxiety.

  • Goal Setting: Together with your therapist, you'll establish clear treatment goals. These goals will guide the therapy process and provide a framework for measuring progress.

  • Therapeutic Relationship: A strong therapeutic relationship built on trust and collaboration is crucial. Your therapist will create a safe and nonjudgmental space for you to express your thoughts and feelings.

  • Psychoeducation: Understanding anxiety is the first step in managing it. Therapists often provide education about the physiological, emotional, and cognitive aspects of anxiety. This helps you recognize the signs and triggers of anxiety.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach for treating anxiety. It focuses on identifying and challenging irrational or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that contribute to anxiety. Through CBT, you learn to replace negative thought patterns with more realistic and adaptive ones.

  • Exposure Therapy: For specific anxiety disorders, such as phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), exposure therapy is effective. This involves gradually and systematically exposing yourself to the feared situation or object, helping you build tolerance and reduce anxiety.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Therapists may teach relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. These practices can help you manage physical symptoms of anxiety and increase your overall sense of calm.

  • Behavioral Techniques: Therapists may use behavioral techniques to help you develop coping skills. This might include setting and achieving small, manageable goals, or using behavioral experiments to test the accuracy of anxious beliefs.

  • Homework and Practice: Therapy often involves homework assignments or exercises to practice between sessions. These assignments reinforce the skills and strategies learned in therapy.

  • Monitoring Progress: Over time, you and your therapist will regularly assess your progress toward your treatment goals. Adjustments to the treatment plan may be made as needed.

  • Support and Validation: Your therapist provides emotional support and validation throughout the process. They help you process your emotions and provide guidance on managing difficult situations.

  • Maintenance and Relapse Prevention: Once you've made progress in managing your anxiety, therapy may focus on maintenance and relapse prevention strategies to help you maintain your gains over the long term.

  • Termination and Follow-Up: When you and your therapist agree that your treatment goals have been achieved, therapy may conclude. Some individuals choose to continue with occasional check-ins to maintain their progress.

The duration of therapy for anxiety can vary widely depending on the individual and the severity of the condition. It may be short-term (a few weeks or months) or long-term (several months or more). The key is to work collaboratively with your therapist to develop an individualized treatment plan that best meets your needs.

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Factors When Choosing a Therapist for Anxiety

  1. Type of therapy: Different types of therapy may be more or less effective for anxiety, depending on the individual and the specific type of anxiety they are experiencing. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be highly effective for treating anxiety disorders, while some forms of psychodynamic therapy may not be as well-suited for anxiety.

  2. Therapist qualifications: Different types of therapists may have different levels of training and expertise in treating anxiety. For example, psychologists and psychiatric nurses are typically trained in evidence-based treatments for anxiety, while social workers and marriage and family therapists may have more general training in mental health treatment.

  3. Therapist experience: A therapist’s experience treating anxiety can also be an important factor to consider. Some therapists may have extensive experience working with individuals with anxiety, while others may be relatively new to the field or may not have a lot of experience with anxiety specifically.

  4. Therapist style: The therapeutic relationship is a key component of therapy, and it is important to find a therapist who has a style and approach that feels comfortable and supportive to you. Some therapists may have a more directive or assertive style, while others may have a more collaborative or supportive approach.

  5. Treatment approach: Different therapists may have different approaches to treating anxiety, and it is important to find a therapist who aligns with your values and beliefs about mental health and wellness. For example, some therapists may emphasize medication as a first-line treatment for anxiety, while others may focus on psychotherapy and lifestyle changes.

  6. Cost and availability: Cost and availability can also be important factors to consider when choosing a therapist for anxiety. Some therapists may have long waitlists, and some may not be covered by insurance or may have a limited network of insurance providers.

  7. Personal preferences: Personal preferences and individual circumstances can also play a role in choosing a therapist for anxiety. For example, some individuals may prefer a female therapist, while others may prefer a male therapist. Some individuals may prefer to see a therapist in person, while others may prefer online therapy.

Given these factors, it can be helpful to speak with a mental health professional or your primary care doctor to get recommendations for a therapist for anxiety. You can also use online directories and databases, such as the College of Psychologists of Ontario or the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, to search for therapists in your area. When considering a therapist, it is important to ask questions and feel comfortable with the therapist’s approach and qualifications before starting therapy.

Ontario anxiety

Different Types of Therapists for Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, there are several different types of therapists that can help, each with their own unique approach. Here are a few of the most common types of therapists and the approaches they use to treat anxiety:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that focuses on the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. CBT also teaches coping skills and relaxation techniques to help manage symptoms of anxiety. CBT is often short-term, lasting between 10 and 20 sessions, and is highly effective for treating anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. They can prescribe medication for anxiety and can also provide therapy. Some psychiatrists specialize in psychotherapy, while others may focus primarily on medication management. If you have a history of treatment-resistant anxiety or if medication is a consideration for your treatment, a psychiatrist may be a good option for you.


Psychologists are trained in the science of psychology and can provide therapy for anxiety. Some psychologists specialize in specific approaches to treating anxiety, such as CBT. Psychologists may also provide cognitive and personality assessments to help understand the root causes of anxiety.

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical social workers are trained in both therapy and social work. They often work with individuals facing a variety of mental health and life challenges, including anxiety. Clinical social workers may use a range of therapeutic approaches, including CBT, to help individuals manage their anxiety. They may also help connect individuals with community resources that can support their mental health and overall well-being.

Psychodynamic Therapists

Psychodynamic therapy is a form of talk therapy that explores the unconscious and past experiences that may be contributing to anxiety. This approach is often more long-term and focuses on helping individuals understand their unconscious thoughts and feelings and how they contribute to anxiety. Psychodynamic therapy can be an effective approach for individuals who have a complex history of anxiety and for those who have not found success with more straightforward approaches like CBT.

When it comes to choosing the right therapist for anxiety, it is important to consider your personal preferences and needs. Some individuals may prefer a more structured approach like CBT, while others may prefer a more exploratory approach like psychodynamic therapy. It is also important to consider the type of therapist who will best support your needs, whether that be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a clinical social worker.

It is common to interview several therapists before finding the right fit. During your first session, you can ask the therapist about their approach to treating anxiety and what their experience is with treating anxiety disorders. You can also ask about their training and credentials, and whether they have any specific areas of expertise.

Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing a therapist for anxiety is whether you feel comfortable and supported by the therapist. It is important to find a therapist who you trust and feel comfortable talking to, as this will make it easier to engage in therapy and make progress in managing your anxiety.

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